Once your site is up and running, lots of people can see it. And that’s a good thing, because your goal is to be seen by as many people as possible. Unfortunately, all those people aren’t so nice. In fact, some of them are pretty mean.
Identifying Comment Spam
One of the ways mean people express their nastiness on the web is through comment spam. And, if you’ve had a blog installed on your site for more than a month, you probably have noticed some strange comments.
At first, you’re really excited to see those comments. They say kind things about your blog post such as:
“Wow, that’s what I was seeking for, what a material! existing here at this weblog, thanks admin of this website. Here is my page: chickenpotpie.co.uk.”
You might wonder why I would accuse a reader who says something like “that’s exactly what I was seeking for” or “thanks, admin of this website” of being nasty. Well, that “comment” isn’t really a legitimate comment at all. It’s “comment spam.”
Comment spam is just a fact of life on the web. You can always tell the difference between spam and a legitimate comment with a quick scan. After looking at the comment, ask yourself two questions:
- Is there anything referenced in this comment that is specific to my blog post?
- Is there an irrelevant link or multiple irrelevant links attached to the comment?
A comment that could apply to any blog post in the entire blogosphere is your first indication of comment spam. Imagine a giant computer searching for comment forms across the internet and inserting compliments such as “great information,” and “I will surely bookmark this site.” That’s what’s happening in most of the cases of comment spam.
But why would someone spend thousands of dollars writing software to insert meaningless compliments on your blog post? The answer has to do with the link(s) attached to the comment. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts about Search Engine Optimization, one of the most important tasks you can perform as a blogger is to comment (legitimately) on other blog posts related to your industry/subject. And it’s a good idea to include a link back to your website at the end of your blog post. This helps others who might have enjoyed your comment to dive deeper into your perspective by visiting your website. But if the link attached to a comment, like the comment itself, has absolutely nothing in common with the subject of your post, it’s known as “link stuffing.”
Tempting… go to every blog you can find and write kind, generic comments followed by a link to your site! Surely your ranking will go up in Google! That’s what a lot of SEO “professionals” will do with your site. And you might get a big bump in the short term… but as soon as the SEO specialist who stuffed 10,000 blogs with your irrelevant link is gone, Google will remove your site from it’s search results.
What You Can Do
Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask and even Amazon.com, Ebay and many large websites with popular search functions all understand link stuffing. It’s easy to identify. The same comment posted without any specificity related to any of the subject blogs is a sure sign of link stuffing. So, when you see comment spam in your inbox, check the box to the left of the comment and mark it as spam. That will send a message to the search engines that the comment is spam and the links are bogus. It will also help get the spammer (and, unfortunately, their unwitting clients who hired them to improve their search engine rankings) effectively banned from the searchable web.
What I Can Do
If you’re having problems with spam ( I had a client call last night complaining of receiving 20+ spam comments in five minutes), I can install spam filters on your DecemberPress blog and contact forms to ensure you have limited spam. I use a technology called “CAPTCHA,” and it stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” It was an idea first devised at Carnegie-Mellon University and it works great. You’ve probably experienced CAPTCHA online many times. Whenever you’re asked to type some strange letters into a box or answer a simple arithmetic question, that’s CAPTCHA at work. Because the math problem or crazy text you’re copying into the box is an image, robots can’t see it. So the spammy comment isn’t “validated” and they move on to the net blog. There is no charge for CAPTCHA installation for DecemberPress clients.
Unfortunately, no blog that allows comments is totally free from spam. That’s because some spam is human-generated. In the developing world, wages are so low that large spam companies (also known as Black Hat SEO Firms*) employ humans to insert spam comments into blogs. Humans can successfully defeat CAPTCHA. But human-generated comment spam is fairly rare… today. I’m sure the black hatters are working on ways to automatically defeat CAPTCHA.
Visitors should never see comment spam
I don’t like to included CAPTCHA on new websites because I like to make it as easy as possible for legitimate visitors to comment. But, at some point, the spam gets too difficult to manage. Of course, those spam comments never make it onto your blog. That’s because, when I build your website, I make sure the administrator (you) approve any comments before they’re posted.
So, if someone wants to get kicked off Google because they’re spamming, why not just use those comments to increase your page rank? After all, those are comments and “proof” that someone visited my site, right?
No. An irrelevant comment and/or link on your blog damages your credibility in two ways:
- Spam comments and link annoy legitimate visitors – just like an uncut grass or a messy kitchen turns off visitors to your home.
- Spam comments are detectable by Google and other search engines and may appear as “inbound link stuffing,” which can get you penalized or banned from search.
Google and all the other search engines live and die by their ability to serve up meaningful, helpful, relevant search results. If you have meaningless, spammy, irrelevant comments on your blog, Google will eventually stop serving your website up to search visitors because it’s no considered a quality product.
If you’re having problems with comment spam, contact me and I’ll help. And if you’d like to see CAPTCHA in action, leave a comment below!
If you manage a DecemberPress site and you’ve added CAPTCHA, please share your story with a comment below.
*Black Hat SEO Firms employ many “illegal” tricks to “game” the search engines. If you are contacted by a business suggesting that they can get your website on the front page of Google easily, you’ve just met a Black Hat SEO. Just hang up the phone or mark the email as “spam.” There’s simply no quick and easy way to get to the “top” of a search engine result. If their was, everybody would be at the top, right? What gets you to the top is a consistent approach to creating quality content and interacting with visitors to your site and other bloggers who share a passion for your subject. Make meaning. Appreciate good content. Be kind.